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Mike Bartlett. Senior Director, Corporate Responsibility, MLSE & Executive Director, MLSE Foundation

There’s nothing more satisfying than landing your dream job and loving what you do everyday. And Mike Bartlett, Senior Director, Corporate Responsibility, MLSE & Executive Director at the MLSE Foundation has done just that. Mike’s job is the perfect example of a career that combines passion, business and philanthropy and demonstrates that you can have your cake and eat it too.  So don’t settle- your dream job and organization is out there.

What does your job entail including what a typical day might be like? 

My role doesn’t come with a typical job description. I have the privilege of being involved in a number of different aspects of the business. There’s a running joke that I have 4 different business cards depending on the part of the business I am representing on any particular day. I represent MLSE for the work of the Foundation, Sport Development, and on various Boards within the community.

In my job there is no typical day, there’s not even one week that looks like the next. Most often, however, I am acting as spokesperson for the community work that we do. The days that I enjoy the most are those when I am out in the community and I can see the positive impact we helped create. That validates the long days.

Can you briefly describe your career path and how you got your current job? 

I’ve always been motivated by people outcomes. After I graduated from school I worked for Wilfred Laurier, in a department that had a community aspect to it. After that I was able to apply my business degree to a job with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in sponsorship and marketing. From there I went to work for the Oakville Hospital Foundation. I was involved in sponsorship and community giving initially, but I held a number of different roles over my six year tenure. I was personally and professionally very committed to the role, I grew up in Oakville, my family lived in Oakville and I was passionate about the work. The only thing that could have pulled me away was finding my dream job, which turned out to be the Executive Director at the MLSE Foundation.   

What’s the coolest part about your job and what’s the biggest challenge?

I love everything about the job. Although I have to endure friends and family telling me everything that ails the Leafs, I don’t mind it because even though I may not be in the know, you kind of feel like you are when you work here. I grew up reading the sports pages, and now, in a small way, I am in them. I am fortunate because I get to hear things and get access to things that I used to dream of. To top it all off I get to do awesome work in the community. I don’t think I could work anywhere else, this place is too much fun.

What advice would you give to a job seeker looking for meaningful work?

I would offer three pieces of advice:

1.  I see a lot resumes that focus on the individual and not the cause. My least favourite cover letter to read is the one that just tells me why the applicant wants the job more than anyone else. Instead, they should be looking at the organization and explaining how they can help. People in this sector need to present themselves in a way that honestly articulates what’s in it for the organization.

2. It’s a people business. If you can establish a reputation that is collaborative, people minded, and a good listener then you’ll be able to lead people, overcome obstacles and achieve great outcomes.

3. It’s all right to view this sector as a business sector. People should not be making apologies for being paid to be a non-profit professional. Someone has to do the work, and it’s a big industry with a lot of money being invested and it should be run like a business to get the most out of those investments. 

What can you identify as the biggest opportunity in your sector right now?

The biggest opportunity is leveraging the interest of Millennials to be involved in the sector. That doesn’t mean they will instantly become massive cheque writers. But far too often in the sector were focusing on the Millennials’ parents because they happen to be the ones right now that can afford to contribute to our immediate campaign needs. That approach misses the big picture, and the large number of Millennials in entry level roles who are more impact minded than their parents’ generation. This is the first generation that had to do volunteering before they could graduate high school. Those same people are still looking to contribute to causes after high school. The most successful foundations ten years from now will be the ones that figure out how to engage Millennials now, who will then propel those organizations to unimaginable heights in the future.

What advice would you give to other foundations?

The minute we turned the work we do into the company’s foundation was the day we multiplied our opportunities for success. The MLSE Foundation is not the work of 10 people, it’s the work of everyone at MLSE. Since I started working at MLSE I am most proud of opening up the work we do to the rest of the organization. We treat it like the company’s foundation, we just happen to be the stewards of it.


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